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Sustainability in Design: Life Sciences & Technology Building, University of California, Santa Barbara

Carey Woo, AIA, NBBJ

NBBJ endeavors to incorporate sustainable design into every project regardless of whether the client is interested in pursuing a LEED™ certification. The new Life Sciences and Technology Building for the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is no exception. The Life Sciences Building is a four-story, 78,000 square foot research laboratory and administration building for the UCSB Biology Department. The project is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2004.

Not only was the goal of the design team to create a building that is sustainable, cost effective, and efficient, but the primary objective was also to design a building that would offer a healthy environment for the researchers, staff, and students that occupy the building. The following are a few of the measures utilized in designing the Life Sciences Building to achieve the Design Team's goals for sustainability:

Site and Building:

  • Offices with operable windows are located on the north elevation to minimize heat gain.
  • The building form encloses a courtyard which creates an outdoor room for teaching.
  • Primary circulation takes place in open-air spaces.
  • Landscape materials minimize heat islands.
  • Landscaping is irrigated using reclaimed water.
  • Mature trees shade west-facing office windows.
  • Exterior sunscreens on the southern elevation minimize heat gain.
  • Nearly all non-laboratory spaces are naturally ventilated with operable windows.
  • Exhaust fan cools offices at night.
  • Exposure of structural concrete in offices takes advantage of thermal mass to minimize thermal swing and reduce heating/cooling load.
  • Connection to campus chilled water loop eliminated the need for on site chiller equipment.
  • CFC-based refrigerants are not used in the building.
  • Local and recycled materials are used in construction.
  • Energy management controls are used throughout the building.
  • Direct line of site to vision glazing is available in 90 percent of all regularly occupied spaces.
  • Use of high volume fly ash in concrete.
  • Use of waterless urinals to reduce water consumption.
  • No carpeting in offices reduces particulate matter in the air.
  • Recycled content construction materials and low VOC materials utilized.

The Poster for the UCSB Life Sciences and Technology Building will graphically highlight the sustainable design aspects of the project, demonstrating how they not only enhance the environment for its occupants, but also lead to greater research interaction and collaboration.


This approach to building design should not only be geared towards achieving a low environmental impact, but should also provide maximum environmental quality for the occupants.

Labs21 Connection:

It is the goal of NBBJ to design buildings that are environmentally sensitive. To this end, we review the "whole building" to find opportunities for integrating sustainable design. The design team reviews all aspects of the lab building utilities, such as maximizing the equipment efficiencies beyond the basic code requirements and studying water reduction methods, to help our clients reduce energy consumption and reduce maintenance costs. Additionally, specification of green materials aids in providing a healthy working environment for the building occupants. The design for the Life Sciences and Technology Building for the University of California, Santa Barbara typifies this approach.


Carey Woo, AIA, is an Associate at NBBJ and is a LEED™ Accredited Professional. Carey has over 15 years of experience in the field of Architecture in all phases of design and construction. Past projects include manufacturing facilities and research and development buildings for institutional and corporate clients. Carey is a leader in the NBBJ Sustainable Design Group which provides valuable sustainable design guidance for all NBBJ projects world wide.


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